The Forum organised by the European People’s Party think-tank, the Centre for European Studies (CES), came six weeks before Irish voters are due to approve, or not, their country’s joining the ‘fiscal treaty’. Beyond understanding the stability disciplines, the electorate needs a vision for Europe’s economy out of the crisis, speakers agreed.
"Voting ‘Yes’ in the referendum on 31 May sends out a signal around the world and to the eurozone and the European Union that Ireland wants to continue to be a central member,” said Taoiseach Enda Kenny, underlining that Ireland will have the same access to the European Stability Mechanism than other countries.
“We hope never have to use that but in the event that that might happen, investor confidence will always be strong once the insurance policy is in place,” he added.
Speakers stressed that one-size does not fit all: depending on the countries, budget austerity or economic stimulus may be needed. In any case, beyond regulating banking better, one should focus on unleashing the real economy.
“Neither austerity nor stimulus is right. The Baltics went through austerity successfully and now grow. But it does not seem to work in Southern Europe,” said Dan O’Brien, editor of the Irish Times.
Former Irish Prime Minister and former EU ambassador in Washington, John Bruton, called the EU long-term growth strategy Europe 2020 ‘a bunch of platitudes’.
Experts concurrent and suggested some changes need to be made refocusing on:
- Creating activity, not just jobs, by cutting red-tape
- Value added labour, supported by education investment of States, companies and families
- Flexicurity, the Nordic and German model, of lessening barriers to work contracts and encouraging job seekers to find quickly
- Shifting some labour costs onto consumption taxes
- Political leadership and strong implementation
The ageing population and pensions issues were also addressed. While retirement age needs to increase, reconsidering pension amounts would be too sensitive. One participant recalled, to general nodding, that the centre-right political family is committed to the German-inspired model of ‘social market economy’.